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Psychiatr Danub. 2018 Jun;30(Suppl 4):152-157.

Schizophrenia and Physical Comorbidity.

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Department of Psychological Medicine, University Hospital Center Zagreb, Kišpatićeva 12, HR 10 000 Zagreb, Croatia,


Schizophrenia is a severe psychiatric disorder increasingly recognized as a systemic disorder. In addition to the burden and suffering caused by the mental illness itself, individuals with schizophrenia have a high risk for physical illnesses. The life expectancy gap remains 13 to 30 years wider in people with schizophrenia compared to the general population. This premature mortality is caused largely by deaths due to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes mellitus, and other natural causes, poor diagnosis and treatment, and insufficient prevention of modifiable risk factors. Although the links between schizophrenia and physical illnesses are well established, in clinical practice, physical illnesses in patients with schizophrenia are often overlooked, and the mortality gap between general population and people with schizophrenia continues to widen. The physical health of people with schizophrenia is commonly self-neglected but also ignored by people around them and by health systems, resulting in significant physical health disparities and limited access to health services. The root of the problem of insufficient healthcare appear to lie in interrelated contributory factors from illness, patients, and medical and mental healthcare system. Furthermore, a growing body of literature has been indicating the effect of the chronic physical illness on the treatment outcome of psychosis. Premature mortality and disability could be reduced if there was a greater focus on the implementation of strategies that effectively prevent modifiable risk factors from the first psychotic episode and enhance early recognition of physical illnesses, reduce the burden of physical comorbidity and lead to improved health outcomes. Ultimately, to improve treatment outcome and to reduce the suffering of people with schizophrenia, it is crucial to treat physical comorbidity promptly and assertively from the appearance of the first symptoms of the psychotic disorder. The integrative approach and collaborative care within all levels of healthcare providers should be the imperative in clinical practice.

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